We Are Water: Erin Brockovich On Pollutants, Politics & People Power


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By Rich Roll. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Over 40,000 chemicals currently find their way into a litany of consumer products. Although many are toxic, less than 1% have been tested for human safety. Nonetheless, great quantities can still be found in our drinking water.

How is this possible? Shouldn’t clean water be a fundamental right?

These questions are both fair and important. Unfortunately, trusted regulatory bodies like the EPA often fail to adequately protect us. Science is often manipulated by companies that put profit over public health. And thus, industry pollution continues unsupervised -- and the consumer protection laws we do have in place remain unenforced.

To better understand this reality -- how we got here and where to go from here -- I sat down with one of the most famous names in environmental activism.

Meet the the singular and eminent Erin Brockovich.

Best known as the legal file clerk who battled PG&E over polluted water in the town of Hinckley, CA, Ms. Brockovich was instrumental in architecting a case that resulted in the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

It’s a story that ended up on the big screen. Garnered Julia Roberts an Oscar for her portrayal of Erin under the direction of the great Steven Soderberg. And turned the name Erin Brockovich into not only a household name, but a verb.

Unfortunately, America’s waters didn’t cease to be polluted after the closing credits of the film. In fact, they’ve only gotten worse -- a fact that should leave us all deeply concerned. And highly motivated to act.

Because Superman's not coming.

Today Erin delivers a master class on water, with one resounding takeaway: the problem is our's to solve.

Simply put, we cannot rely on corporations or the government to protect us. An admittedly disheartening realization, it's also empowering -- a call to citizen activism to forge the better world we deserve.

It's a theme Ms. Brockovich explores in her new book, Superman's Not Coming (and recently launched podcast of the same name), which both take a brutally honest look at how mismanagement, chemical spills, mishandling of toxic waste and sludge, and even fake studies have created the perfect storm in terms of damaging water systems in the United States. The result is making us sick. And destroying the environment along the way.

This is a conversation about the outdated policies that perpetuate this pollution cycle, and the evil-overlord-level of deception that is happening in the corporations and government bodies we blindly trust.

We discuss the regulatory landscape of clean water. How what most consider a human right has become politicized and weaponized. How to better educate yourself about your own water supply. And the actions to undertake in the event of an issue.

In addition, we explore Erin’s upbringing. Her struggles with dyslexia. The experiences and mentors that fuel her perseverance. The case that brought her fame. And the vital work she has done since.

Brimming with unexpected optimism, I think you will find Erin’s message a welcome break from the relentless apocalyptic doom presented by the 24-hour news cycle.

A mighty, whip-smart and imposing force of nature, for many years I've deeply admired and respected Ms. Brockovich from afar. This conversation was an honor. And a powerful reminder of the indelible influence of the individual to create positive change and awaken a movement.

The visually inclined can watch our exchange on YouTube. And as always, the podcast streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

My this one awaken you to action.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Davy Greenberg; and theme music by Ana Leimma.

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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